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     And its Schools

We can only surmise that other than the Native American population, the first Caucasian people to settle in this area were hunters and trappers. History does tell us that the French and Spanish were here first, attested by the names of certain creeks and landmarks. I had long thought that the Castor Creek first got it’s name from a plant, namely the castor bean plant that was growing along it’s banks but further research now convinces me that the stream was named by French and Spanish explorers as Castor in those languages means Beaver.

There is very little written history of those early times until after the Homestead Act of 1820 was enacted by the Federal Government and the lands in this area were surveyed and divided into Sections and Townships. By 1830, there were a few permanent settlers but in the 1850’s people moving westward began to settle and homestead small farms.

People in this group included several families, connected by blood or marriage, who came from Lawrence County, Mississippi. I am listing that group here as most of the family names are included in the list of prominent citizens who eventually wound up in the Town of Olla and contributed to the alumni of The Olla Standard High School. They include, but are not limited to the following:  Maxwell, Kees and Prestridge. That group settled here in 1859 and Wiley P. Maxwell homesteaded land which later became the Town of Urania. Others moving to this area about the same time but from other parts of the country were Elvington E. Roberts, West Waggoner and Jessie P. Holloman. At the time of first settlement, this place was called Maxwell Springs, named no doubt after Wiley P. and the large spring which was located at the intersection of School and Center Streets, about one block behind the present day Urania Middle School.

The early settlers, mostly educated people no doubt provided some schooling for their children but I have yet to find any documentation to that effect. There was a school at New Union Church South of town but the records of The Pinehill Baptist do not indicate a school was ever there; a church which the aforementioned families founded soon after arriving here from Mississippi. I did find in the Clerk of Court records for Catahoula (now LaSalle) Parish the fact that in 1885, West Waggoner and William Hulbert were appointed by The Catahoula Parish School Board as local directors of the Missionary Ridge School. By my research and word of mouth, it is my belief that the school as well as a Baptist church and Masonic Lodge, all with the same Missionary Ridge name were located at the present location of the Urania Cemetery. And records also indicate that the cemetery was at one time, called by the same name.

Jimmie P. Maxwell, grandson of Wiley P. in his book, “Writings of the Chickasaw Scribe” wrote on page 45, the following: “That a school was moved prior to 1900, from the site of the old Missionary Ridge Cemetery to near its present location. (referencing the present day school location)” That move was made to use Maxwell Spring as a source of water for the school. The new school was located on the back side of town and across the railroad line which is now Center Street, approximately 300 yards northwest of the spring.

Then, and this is only an educated guess but another school was built about 1907, a two story building located across the street from where the middle school now sits.

This building was used until 1925 when a new school was constructed across the street and that is the one people of my generation went to school in. This is a photo of the two story building that was turned into four apartments by the Urania Lumber Company after 1925. I personally worked with a crew part time demolishing the two story building and saving the lumber in 1941, while attending school across the street. Following is a picture of the building. 

Old Urania School

As stated, the new Urania High School Campus was completed in 1925 and the buildings were used as follows: The buildings from left to right were the 4th. through 7th. grades, high school, auditorium, home-economic cottage and to the far right, 1st. 2nd. and 3rd. grades.

Urania School built 1925

The long time principal was Prof. George H. Middleton whom we called “Tuffy” but of course, not to his face and the name fits as I can attest to, being the recipient of his brand of discipline many times. All of it no doubt earned and surely appropriate.
The last class to graduate from this facility was in 1950, and then students from Urania joined those from Olla, Tullos and surrounding areas at LaSalle High.

During World War Two, Urania and the surrounding area furnished over 300 men and women serving in the military, a good portion of which were former students of Urania High. Of this over 300, eight gave the supreme sacrifice with four being graduates of the school. They were James Clarence McCartney class of 29, Luther Thompson Whitten, Jr. class of 35, Farris Lee Durham class of 40 and Simon Labatt class of 41. In addition, three others KIA who were former students included Bobby Leach, Ray Schrader and Lloyd Smith.

While Olla Standard High excelled in three sports, baseball, football and basketball, Urania High was held to only basketball because of the smaller student body and lack of equipment. But what we lacked in other sports, we excelled in basketball as in the early or mid 1930’s, The Urania Lumber Company built what was described as one of the premier gyms in the country and the teams lived up to that standard as well. Winning state on a couple occasions and always at or near the top of our class. Many times, playing and beating much larger schools such as Bolton from Alexandria as well as other AAA schools.                                                                                                 

In 1925, the team went to Chicago in nationals and came in second as indicated by the following article from the April 3, 1925 Winnfield News-America

Urania Basket Ball TeamPlays in National Tournament at Chicago. Defeats Nevada Team

The Urania High School Basketball team. Louisiana champions, left last Sunday night for Chicago where they went to play in the National Tournament. The whole state will rejoice over the fact that they played and defeated the Tonopah, Nev., team Wednesday by a score of 38 to 15. Press reports are to the effect that when the Southerners once began hitting the basket they could not miss, the Gaharan brothers being particularly effective with seven baskets each.

Urania played a long spot pass game, taking the ball down the floor, while under the basket the Southerners took full advantage of lax guarding to sink numerous baskets from follow attempts. The Urania cagers completely outclassed their opponents. They will meet Torrington, Conn., New England champs, in a third round contest Thursday morning at ten o'clock.

The Urania lineup is: J. Gaharan, left forward; O. Kees, right forward; L. Gaharan, center; L. Boyette, center; Q. McCartney, left guard; W. Bass, right guard.

(Submitted by Greggory Ellis Davies, Winnfield, Winn Parish, LA.)

 Olla played an important part in the 1947 Urania High School Central Louisiana Grand Championship in that James Watson “Jim” Lindsey came to play on the basketball team. A review with his brother-in-law, Ray Duke revealed the reason for this move by Jim, IE: we had such a nice gym while Olla was playing on a dirt court and with his talent, he wanted to be on a winning team. But no doubt, we Urania folk are much indebted to him for his valuable contribution.


E. Forrest Cook - Class of 1941  
                                                                            Urania High School
                                                                              March 8, 2010


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